8 Easy Ways to Healthify Your Halloween

Halloween can be fun, festive, and healthy! Take a pass on the sugar hangover this year, and keep in the spirit of things with these simple, delightful ways to make the Halloween holiday happy and just a little bit healthier.

  1. Bake tasty treats. Put a creative spin on traditional sugar-laden sweets this October. Rather than candy and other unhealthy refined sugars, consider Halloween themes as you craft recipes into yummy, healthy treats.
    • Turn ghostly green apples into goblin faces with peanut butter mouths, a triangle of cheese for tongues, and toasted pumpkin seeds for teeth.
    • Whip up granola and yogurt cups with fruit toppings that resemble pumpkins or black cats.
    • Roast veggies in cutout shapes of jack-o-lanterns, witch hats, and ghosts.
    •  Transform a frozen banana on a stick into a mummy by applying stripes of yogurt and two dots for eyes.
    • Top quesadillas with spooky veggie faces.
    • Try out bat-shaped cookie cutters on pita bread and serve with hummus dip.
  2. Let the fall season be your guide. Whether you pick a local pumpkin to carve (or roast and bake into Healthy Pumpkin Muffins or Pumpkin Pie Smoothies or head to the nearest corn maze, fill your days with all the goodies that fall in Maine brings.
  3. Consider throwing a Halloween bash in lieu of trick-or-treating. Play games, dance, give out fun prizes, and start your own healthy Halloween tradition!
  4. Fill up on good-for-you food before trick-or-treating. As tempting as it is to call in a pizza on All Saints’ Eve, plan ahead. Try putting together a Pumpkin Turkey Chili in the slow cooker the morning of Halloween, and it’ll be ready before it’s time to hit the streets. (Bonus points for serving it in a cleaned-out pumpkin!) Or make a spooky charcuterie board so everyone can help themselves—load up slices of fruit, vegetables, nuts, and meats alongside rubber spiders, skeleton bones, and peeled grape “eyes.” When you fuel up on healthy food first, your kids (and you!) are less likely to overdo the refined sugar.
  5. Mix up what you give out. Trade bowls of candy for Halloween-themed erasers, stickers, fake tattoos, glow sticks, bubbles, or other games or toys. Or hand out bags of healthier snacks, like string cheese, trail mix, or granola.
  6. Get active. Take a bike ride, walk the long way to the trick-or-treating neighborhood, and enjoy time outdoors in Maine’s beautiful fall weather.
  7. Limit bag size and location. If your child has a smaller bag trick-or-treating, they can’t carry as much candy. Likewise, combing a small neighborhood for candy will minimize the amount of candy they collect.
  8. A little goes a long way. Develop a trick-or-treat rationing system that works for your family. Consider setting aside a few of their favorites and managing the stash: allot a certain number of candies for each night in the coming week. Moderation is helpful to model. Or give away the loot. Some homes for older adults, food pantries, and other local charities take donations of candy. Dentists, too, will often “buy back” candy from children. Some families even have a “Switch Witch” come overnight and replace the candy with a special gift for each child.

With a little planning and a dose of creativity, your Halloween celebration doesn’t have to involve copious amounts of candy, sugar overload, and super stimulation. It can be fun—and healthy, too!

September is National Cholesterol Education Month

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2020, 696,962 Americans died from heart disease. A major risk factor? High blood cholesterol.

This September, we’re celebrating National Cholesterol Education Month with information to help you reduce your risk. Find out what “good” and “bad” cholesterol is, how to find out where your cholesterol falls on the scale toward optimal health, and how you can proactively prevent and manage it to reduce your risk for heart disease, heart attack or stroke.

What is Cholesterol?

Blood cholesterol is essential for good health. Your body needs this waxy, fat-like substance created by your liver in order to perform crucial tasks, such as making hormones and digesting fatty foods. You make all the cholesterol you need, which is why you do not need to eat any additional cholesterol in your diet.

Dietary cholesterol is found in animal foods. These foods include meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, and dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese. Consuming dietary cholesterol leads to unhealthy blood cholesterol levels.

Managing your blood cholesterol level is important for your heart and brain. High blood cholesterol typically has no symptoms, but it can lead to heart attacks and strokes. That’s why it’s important to have your cholesterol screened regularly by your health care provider.

How to Check Cholesterol Levels

You can easily check your cholesterol levels with a screening done by your healthcare provider. A cholesterol screening consists of a simple blood test and requires you to fast for 8 to 12 hours before blood is drawn. The test will check for your levels of lipoproteins, triglycerides, and total cholesterol.

A standard measurement of healthy cholesterol levels is:
Total cholesterol: Less than 200 mg/dL
LDL cholesterol: Less than 100 mg/DL
HDL cholesterol: Greater than or equal to 60 mg/dL
Triglycerides: Less than 150 mg/dL

Generally, adults should have their cholesterol checked every 4 to 6 years. Some people, such as those who have heart disease or diabetes or a family history of high cholesterol, will need to be screened more often. Children and adolescents should have a cholesterol test at least once between ages 9 and 11 and then again between ages 17 and 21. If you’re not sure how often you should have your cholesterol level measured, consult your primary healthcare provider.

What is “Good” and “Bad” Cholesterol?

You have likely heard of “good” and “bad” cholesterol. But what does that even mean?

Cholesterol travels through your blood on two types of lipoproteins: low-density lipoprotein, which you may be familiar with as LDL, and high-density lipoprotein, or HDL. LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, makes up most of your body’s cholesterol. High levels of LDL raise your risk of heart diseases and strokes. The “good” cholesterol, HDL, absorbs cholesterol and carries it back to the liver, where it is then flushed out of your body. High levels of HDL can lower your risk for heart diseases and strokes.

When you have too much “bad” LDL cholesterol, it can build up as plaque on the walls of your blood vessels. Plaque buildup causes the inside of your arteries to narrow over time. This blocks blood flow to and from your heart and other vital organs, potentially leading to a heart attack or stroke.

How to Prevent High Cholesterol

In addition to heart-wise cholesterol checks at your doctor’s office, you can proactively prevent high blood cholesterol with your food choices. Research shows that eating less cholesterol reduces your risk of cardiovascular diseases. Your diet is under your control, which can feel comforting when facing the prospect or management of a major disease.

We already know that your body makes all the cholesterol it needs, so you don’t need any additional cholesterol from food to be healthy. The main culprits of dietary cholesterol are foods high in saturated fat and trans fat.

For a heart-healthy diet, you can:

  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. The more, the better, really! Try “eating the rainbow” to ensure you get a variety of nutrients. DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is a flexible, well-balanced eating plan you could try.
  • Curtail foods high in saturated fat. Saturated fats come from animal products and tropical oils (palm oil, palm kernel oil, and coconut oil). A mostly plant-based diet can help you achieve this goal.
  • Reduce your sodium (salt) intake. Say no to salty foods such as canned soup, frozen meals, processed cheese, beef jerky, and smoked or cured meats like bacon, ham, and sausage; and strive for homemade meals over packaged or restaurant food. Swap salt for herbs and spices to keep your food flavorful.
  • Eliminate all trans fats. Also known as trans-fatty acids, trans fats are usually created through an industrial process that adds hydrogen to vegetable oil. Trans fats are downright unhealthy. Avoid it by reading labels; you’ll see it listed as partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. Foods that often contain trans fats include commercial baked goods, shortening, microwave popcorn, frozen pizza, refrigerated dough, fried foods, nondairy creamer, and margarine.
  • Eliminate or reduce added sugars in your diet. This means fewer baked goods, desserts, and convenience foods. Turn toward fruit and other naturally sweet alternatives to satisfy your sweet tooth.
  • Choose foods naturally high in fiber, such as oatmeal and beans, and unsaturated fats, which you can find in avocado, olive oil, and nuts. These foods may help lower “bad” LDL cholesterol and raise “good” HDL cholesterol. Browse these healthy recipes to find delicious, fiber-filled meals and snacks you can enjoy, such as Mexican Street Corn and Grilled Zucchini and Hummus Wraps.

Your diet is not the only way to lower your risk for heart disease and stroke. You can also make heart-healthy lifestyle changes.

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Overweight and obesity raise levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and affects how your body uses cholesterol. Use your body mass index (BMI) number to determine whether your weight is in a healthy range, and if it’s not, work with your healthcare provider to create a food and fitness plan that works best for you.
  • Get regular physical activity. In addition to helping you maintain a healthy weight, exercise lowers your cholesterol and blood pressure levels. Adults should aim to get at least 2 ½ hours of moderate exercise each week, while children should have an hour or more of physical activity every day.
  • If you smoke, quit. Smoking damages your blood vessels, speeds up the process of hardening arteries, and has a profound effect on your heart disease risk.
  • Limit or eliminate your alcohol consumption. Men should consume no more than two drinks per day, and women should have no more than one. Better yet, do not drink at all.

An estimated 71 million Americans have high blood cholesterol, and yet fewer than half get treatment. If you’re concerned about your cholesterol, speak with your healthcare provider. There are many choices you can make together to ease your worry and plan for a healthy future.

How to Add Fruits and Veggies to Every Meal

The health benefits of eating fresh fruits and vegetables daily are undisputed. They contain a terrific supply of vitamins, minerals, and fiber; they are generally low-calorie and low-fat food sources; they help you maintain good health and weight; they supply antioxidants; and they are naturally low in sodium and cholesterol. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables can lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, prevent some types of cancer, and have a positive effect on blood sugar levels. In sum, a healthy diet reduces your risk of some chronic diseases and improves your wellbeing.

But—what if you don’t like the taste of vegetables? Or your children complain too much when a broccoli spear touches their plate? How do you incorporate more whole foods like veggies and fruit into your diet when you know it’s good for you but haven’t made the health goal a reality?

How to Make a Healthy Change

We know fruits and vegetables are essential to our health, and yet most of us are not getting enough. It can be challenging to change your behavior even when you know the facts.

The way to make a healthy habit stick is to make it easy and repetitive. Americans are increasingly turning to simple vegetables that you can grab and go out the door: avocados, salads, and favorite fruits such as bananas, blueberries, grapes, and oranges. Start by figuring out what works best for you. Go with your favorite options, the ones that are easiest for you to incorporate into your day, and expand from there. While variety is the optimal goal, the easiest way to start is whatever fruits and vegetables work naturally for you.

Repeating your new habit is key. Once you have begun to make progress on incorporating more whole foods into your diet, make sure you repeat, repeat, repeat! Repetition is what turns a good choice into a healthy habit.

You may find you need some time for your taste buds to get used to fresh produce and its subtleties, but over time you’ll find fruits and vegetables to have more flavor than any convenience food. Just give it time. Before you know it, eating healthy will be automatic for you!

How Much Produce Do You Need Every Day?

Fruits and vegetables should make up half your plate at each meal for the average adult. (Specific serving recommendations vary by age, gender, and activity level, as well as whether you are pregnant or breastfeeding—consult your primary care provider to develop a plan that is tailored to you.) This translates to five servings each day of produce, according to the USDA, or approximately 2 cups of fruit and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables daily.

More Fruits, More Vegetables: The Everyday Diet

Everyone can benefit from incorporating fresh produce into their diet. How should you go about making sure you get the fruits and veggies you need every day?

Plan to eat the rainbow.

Making a meal plan for the week can not only reduce your grocery bill, it can also make you eat a healthier, more varied diet. Make it a point to make vegetables and fruits the stars of every meal and snack, and build the rest of your meal around them. Part of this may involve an internal mind shift. Instead of thinking chicken wings are what’s for dinner, think Mexican Street Corn is for dinner—now what lean protein and whole grains will you add to that?

Eat local.

Shop at your local farmers’ market. The CDC finds that routine visits to the farmers market result in higher consumption of vegetables and fruits. Not only that, but being in season tends to translate to less expensive produce. Get more tips on how to make the most of your local market.

Start a garden! In addition to or instead of visiting the farmers market, a container or backyard garden can yield a whole lot more than produce. You’d be surprised how children and adults alike enjoy their food more when they pull it from the soil themselves. Plus, a garden is a cheaper way to get your veggies in. Learn more about starting your own garden.

Snack on fresh food.

Many fruits and vegetables require little to no preparation, making them convenient and nutritious. Blueberries, apples, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, bell peppers, carrots, celery, radishes, and cucumbers are all easy-to-eat, healthy snacks you can consume raw. To make these healthy choices more filling, try adding a protein-based dip like hummus or almond butter.
Spread fruits and veggies across your day.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, dinner tends to be the meal when most families eat veggies. If you want to add vegetables to your day, try focusing on breakfast or lunch. And if you skip produce in one meal, don’t fret; simply add more of it the next time you dine.

Tips on Sneaking More Veggies and Fruit into Your Diet

Here are some more easy, tried-and-true ways to add more fruits and veggies to your diet:

  • Make your salads as colorful as possible. Try using three or more veggies in addition to greens.
  • Top oatmeal, cereal, or yogurt with Maine berries or fruit, or make a savory breakfast by adding sauteed mushrooms and kale.
  • Plant-ify meals you already have in regular rotation: add a can of black beans and some frozen corn to chili, toss strips of green peppers in with your morning eggs, sneak tomatoes into your sandwich.
  • Chop them up. Finely diced zucchini, mushroom, or summer squash and your family might not even detect its presence!
  • Prepare veggie snacks in advance—slice them and put them already prepared into containers for instant snacks. The more convenient you can make the choice, the more likely they will get chosen.
  • Try a salad a day. A green salad is a wonderful, healthy choice, but feel free to think beyond that color: load up a bowl with an array of cut fruits, mix and match fruits and veggies, or use a different vegetable than lettuce as your base, such as raw zucchini or grated carrots. Get creative!
  • Add fun! Skewer fruit onto kebab sticks or make veggie art. Young kids aren’t the only ones who enjoy a side of fun with their meals!
  • Introduce more vegetable- or legume-based dips into your diet, such as guacamole, hummus, and baba ganoush—and then dip in fruit and vegetables.
  • Make smoothies. So easy, so good!
  • Add cooking greens like kale, spinach, collards, or Swiss chard to your soups about 10 minutes before they are done cooking.
  • Make wraps with lettuce or cabbage leaves in lieu of bread.
  • Add sauteed mushrooms and garlic to tomato sauce.
  • Add herbs and fruit to make water extra fancy.
  • Change up dessert. Fresh or frozen fruit is a delicious and healthy way to cap off a meal.

Supporting Maine Farms: Healthy for You, Healthy for Our Community

Fresh, unprocessed, whole foods are great sources of vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial nutrients your body needs—think vegetables straight from the garden, hand-picked fruit, and locally raised meat and dairy products. Fortunately in Maine, there are many ways you access fresh, local food to incorporate into your diet that’s not only healthy for you, but healthy for our local community.

Ways to Find Fresh, Local Food in Maine

Community-supported agriculture (CSA) is a system in which a farmer offers shares of their harvest in exchange for money at the beginning of the season, either paid in full or through partial payments. This model helps the farmer pay for early expenses while ensuring the CSA member has food at regular intervals (usually weekly). Many CSA farms offer vegetables and fruits, while some offer meat, dairy, eggs, grains, and more.

Find a CSA farm close to you.

Farmers markets are fun venues to socialize and find a ready supply of healthy, fresh food and Maine-made goods—especially in the spring and summer, when farm-fresh produce is in abundance.

In the early summer months of Maine, expect to find produce such as strawberries, salad greens, spring onions, zucchini, beets, cooking greens, broccoli, summer squash, sugar snap peas, snow peas, scallions, carrots, cucumbers, garlic scapes, fresh herbs, kohlrabi, radishes, salad turnips, microgreens, and fennel. Later in July, you can add blueberries and raspberries to that list, as well as corn, French beans, and new potatoes.

Find a farmers market near you.

Most farmers markets accept cash, local checks, credit cards, and SNAP/EBT funds, with the latter two options usually operating from a booth near the entrance. It’s simple and discreet to use SNAP/EBT funds at the farmers market, and many markets offer special bonuses to SNAP customers, such as Maine Harvest Bucks, that stretch SNAP dollars further. SNAP benefits and Maine Harvest Bucks can also be applied to a CSA share in many cases.

Low-income seniors may be eligible to participate in the Maine Senior FarmShare Program. Through this program, older adults receive fresh, local produce at no cost directly from local Maine farmers during the growing season.

Local Food: Healthy for You

You may have heard the advice to “eat the rainbow”—an easy-to-remember way to incorporate a wide variety of vegetables and fruit in your diet. By shopping at a farmers market or participating in a CSA share, you will naturally find a wide array of diverse offerings.

Have you ever tried eating kohlrabi? If garlic scapes come in your CSA box, what will you make with them? You may try something new—and like it! The many types of fruits and vegetables you’ll encounter will contribute to keeping you in good health by ensuring you are getting an assortment of vital nutrients and vitamins from local, fresh sources, and the newness keeps your diet interesting and your mind churning.

Choosing in-season produce from local farms assures you are getting the best nutrition for your dollar. Fruits and vegetables lose their nutritional value over time, so the sooner it’s eaten after it’s picked, the more nutrients can be gained. Local produce generally lasts longer in your fridge because it’s picked and sold promptly, compared to produce from away, which often travels more than a week before it reaches grocery store shelves—where it may sit even longer. Fresh fruits and vegetables also have a higher water content, making it a good source for hydration—which can particularly be an issue in hot summer weather.

Eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables is a substantial step forward for your health and wellbeing.

  • Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants, compounds that help fight free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can cause damage to your body’s cells
  • Plant foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, and legumes can reduce your risk for diseases like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes; reduce your triglyceride levels; reduce blood sugar levels in people who have or are at risk for diabetes; increase your energy level; and promote gut health

Fresh, local fruits and veggies taste better. You’ll find more flavor, more complex notes in each bite. If you’re used to prepackaged meals and processed foods, it may take a short while for your taste buds to adjust. But once they do, processed food simply cannot compare in taste to what’s on offer at the farmers market.

A balanced diet heavy in fruits and veggies is high in fiber, which provides many positive health effects, including boosting digestive function, metabolic health, and feeling satiated. It’s good for your skin and it’s low in sugar. (Yes, fruit contains sugar, but it’s also high in water and fiber—not to mention other nutrients—so it is healthier than soda, juice, and processed foods.)

Local Food: Healthy for Our Community

Selecting local produce not only contributes to your health, but our community’s health as well. By shopping at the farmers market or belonging to a CSA, you are supporting local farms and businesses and keeping more dollars in our local community. This mutual exchange provides for a more vibrant local economy and a lasting economic impact in Maine.

Supporting local farms also means a smaller carbon footprint. The choice to eat local is a sustainable choice, because food is not trucked across the country or flown overseas before it reaches your plate. This reduction in energy needs helps our planet and our community all at once.

In addition to stopping by the farmers market or signing up for a CSA share, you may want to explore Maine farms and get to know your local farmer. Every summer, farmers from around the state participate in Maine’s Open Farm Day, welcoming visitors to learn more about their farms and to meet the farmers (and animals!). MOFGA’s Common Ground Country Fair is also a popular event full of local vendors, speakers and performances on all things agriculture.

Snacking for Heart Health

Everyone loves snacks! However, when we’re hungry and reaching for something quick to eat, it’s very easy to grab what’s convenient—and not always the most healthy. Eating snacks between meals helps to maintain blood sugar, gives us extra servings of fruits, veggies and nutrients, and can give us a boost of energy.

To keep your snack game strong, we suggest a balanced eating approach. This means that while we don’t suggest depriving yourself of your favorite treats, we do suggest that you indulge in moderation by focusing on whole, minimally processed foods, and avoiding or limiting heavily processed foods. Let’s take at our favorite heart healthy snacks.

Leafy Greens

Okay, you probably won’t grab a handful of greens to snack on but these powerhouse vegetables serve up a hefty dose of vitamins and minerals including vitamins A and C. We suggest adding one to two handfuls of kale or spinach to your favorite smoothie recipe. For a nutritious (and quick) snack, blend up our “Greenest Smoothie.”

Berries

Raspberries, strawberries and blueberries are the ultimate sweet treat. Berries feel indulgent because of their natural sugars but are actually packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. We suggest starting with a serving size of one cup of frozen or fresh picked berries. Enjoy them as they are or add them to a smoothie or on top of a serving of plain yogurt or cottage cheese.

Pro-tip:

To avoid sugar spikes when snacking, add a serving of healthy fat and/or protein. Think banana with peanut butter or apple slices with cheese.

Avocados

This green, nutrient dense fruit is incredibly versatile. Packed with healthy fats to keep you feeling full and with a mild flavor, it can truly take on any form you’d like. Add 1/2 of a ripe avocado into a smoothie. Scoop out the flesh, sprinkle with salt, pepper and a dash of hot sauce and smear it on your toast. Or use it as a veggie dip with cucumbers, carrots, or sliced bell peppers (much like guacamole).

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are small, but pack a mighty punch with a satisfying crunch. Grab a handful of sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, or macadamia nuts. Add chia seeds, flax seeds or hemp seeds to your smoothies or homemade dips. Be cautious of serving sizes as nuts and seeds contain a lot of (healthy) fat.

Hummus

Hummus is typically made from chickpeas but can also be made from white beans, black beans or even mashed cauliflower! Hummus can be store bought or made at home where you can control its ingredients. When made with chickpeas or beans, a serving of hummus offers a generous amount of protein and pairs perfectly with veggie sticks or multi-grain crackers.


While we suggest limiting packaged and processed foods, it’s important to note that not all packaged or prepared foods are bad and should be avoided For instance, washed and packaged leafy greens, pre-cut and washed vegetables, fortified juices, and nut butters are completely acceptable to purchase and enjoy. For best practice while grocery shopping, read all nutrition labels.

On the other hand, we do suggest limiting or completely avoiding heavily processed packaged foods that appear in the store as “ready to eat.” Typically, these food items contain a high amount of processed sugars (e.g. corn syrup), sodium (e.g. salt), trans fats, preservatives and other harmful ingredients. Consider limiting:

  • Chips, popcorn, most crackers
  • Cookies, candy and candy bars
  • Soda, energy drinks or other sugary drinks
  • Dried fruit and fruit cocktails
  • Flavored yogurts


When wanting to choose healthier snacks, try having healthier choices at home that are convenient and ready to eat and therefore easy to choose. Try the following:

  1. Rinse and portion leafy greens so that they’re ready to be blended into your smoothie.
  2. Wash, cut, and store carrot sticks, cucumbers, peppers and other vegetables for dipping in the fridge.
  3. Pre-portion nuts and seeds and nut butters so you can grab the correct serving size without accidentally overdoing it.


Remember that snacking is a great way to maintain your blood sugar and keep you satisfied until your next meal, but it’s not meant to make you feel too full or will have a sugar crash!

If you need help determining which snacks are best for your lifestyle, consult with your primary care provider or with a certified nutritionist.

The Best Foods to Boost Your Immune System

During the holidays and the chilly winter season, we tend to gather more often with others indoors. As a result, flu and cold viruses quickly make their way around. You can protect yourself and your family from illness by wearing masks, washing your hands, and getting flu shots.

However, you can also be mindful of what you eat and drink as a preventative measure to stay healthier. Consider adding the following foods to your diet to keep your immune system humming along—no matter what time of year it is.

Bluberries

These powerful berries contain antioxidants that have been proven to aid the respiratory tract defense system. Add 1/2 cup to one whole cup of blueberries to your cereal, oatmeal, smoothie, salads or yogurt every day.

Fish

Oily fish such as tuna, salmon, anchovies and sardines are packed with Omega-3 healthy fats that can reduce inflammation and the risk of chronic diseases and heart disease. It’s recommended to eat two servings per week at three ounces per serving.

Broccoli

This crunchy, dark green vegetable is packed with antioxidants and vitamin C, true heros fighting for your immune system. Some studies have shown that 2-3 servings per week may help to reduce risk of certain cancers. Try adding one cup of cooked or raw broccoli to your meals at least twice a week for its health benefits.

Spinach

Another dark green vegetable, spinach is a powerhouse when it comes your immune system. It’s packed with vitamins A and C that are known to enhance immune system function, as well as carotenoids and flavonoids that help prevent the common cold in healthy individuals. Add two cups of dark, leafy greens such as spinach to your food intake every day to get the most benefit from its nutrients. Spinach is great cooked as a side dish or raw in salads and smoothies.

Ginger

Ginger is a slightly spicy, warming ingredient with anti-inflammatory properties. It can be cooked into your favorite dishes, added to smoothies, or enjoyed with a cup of tea. Ginger has been known to calm upset stomachs and soothe sore throats. Try adding a tablespoon of grated or chopped ginger to your next stir fry or soup recipe. If you’re feeling unwell, add a few slices to a cup of warm lemon water as a way to stay hydrated.


While we don’t suggest a restrictive diet any time of year, we do suggest being aware of certain foods. Consider limiting:

  • Fried foods
  • Fast food
  • Candy
  • Soda and sugary drinks
  • Alcohol and caffeine


Indulging in eggnog and pumpkin pie happens, so don’t be too hard on yourself this holiday season! Give yourself permission to enjoy your favorite holiday treats and allow yourself to truly savor them. Just keep in mind your portions and sugar intake and remember to eat a healthy, balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables and lean protein.

Managing Diabetes During the Holidays

November is Diabetes Awareness month and an important time to talk about healthier food choices. During this holiday season, you can manage your diabetes while enjoying your family, friends and festivities.

What is Diabetes?

At its very basic, diabetes is a chronic disease where your body’s blood glucose is too high. When blood sugar increases, your pancreas releases insulin to manage the excess sugar. For those living with diabetes, their body either doesn’t produce enough insulin or can’t use the insulin as well as it should. For more information on the types of diabetes, check out our blog here.

How can I manage my diabetes during the holidays?

We all celebrate the holiday season in different ways, but it is likely that we all celebrate with food! To enjoy this time without overextending yourself, try to follow some of these tips:

  • Avoid or limit alcohol. If you have a drink, enjoy it with food to help balance blood sugar levels.
  • Consider carbs. If you want to have dessert, be careful with how many carbs you eat before the sweets such as bread, stuffing, and potatoes.
  • Don’t skip meals. Also, try to eat at the same times every day.
  • And don’t skip your favorites! ’Tis the season for family recipes and seasonal favorites. Have a slice of pumpkin pie or glass of eggnog and savor it! As long as you are mindful about the other food choices you’ve made throughout the day.
  • Keep exercising.Walks, stretching, and simple workouts approved by your doctor can help manage stress as well as your mood.
  • Prioritize sleep. The holidays can be both enjoyable and exhausting. When the body doesn’t rest properly, it has a harder time managing blood sugar.

Simple Swaps to Manage Blood Sugar

Just because you’re living with diabetes, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy delicious, rich foods! However, you do need to be deliberate with your food choices. For those moments where you may want a healthier option, try one of the healthier swaps below.

Swap:

Chips and Dip for Veggies and Hummus

You’ll get at least one serving of vegetables and some protein from the hummus. Protein aids in regulating your blood sugar.

Mashed Potatoes for Mashed Cauliflower

You’ll get another serving of low-carb vegetables—just be sure to watch added butter or cream.

Marshmallow Sweet Potatoes for Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are loaded with vitamins and beta-carotene and are sweet enough without added sugar.

Green Bean Casserole for Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Rich in fiber, Brussels sprouts are a better option than the creamy, salty, deep-fried onion casserole.

Fried Turkey for Roasted Turkey

Deep-fried turkeys are trending, but they’re very heavy in fat. Keep your proteins as lean and clean as possible and opt for lean poultry or healthy fat filled fish such as salmon.

Pecan Pie for Pumpkin Pie

Still sweet and filled with festive spices, pumpkin pie has less sugar, less fat and more vitamins from the pumpkin puree.

One in three Americans do not know that they have diabetes.

Diabetes is a chronic disease that may have been present at birth, developed during adulthood or during pregnancy. It should be carefully monitored and managed as it could lead to injury or further illness if mismanaged.
If you think you may have diabetes or need help in managing your diabetes diagnosis, DFD is here to help. Reach out to your primary healthcare provider to discuss your options.

Shake Off Sugar for Your Health

Did you know that sugar is the most popular ingredient added to foods in the United States? In fact, the average American consumes 152 pounds per year—that’s three pounds per week! Serious health complications can arise when too much sugar is consumed including weight gain or obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. In order to quit our habit with sugar (or have a healthier relationship with it) we must become more educated about it.

 

Americans, aged 6 years and older, consumed about 14% of total daily calories from added sugars in 2003–2010. (source: cdc.gov)

 

What is sugar? The most popular sweetener, sugar can go by many names, making it more difficult to limit. When reading packages and labels, look for these terms that refer to sugar: sucrose, maltose, fructose, glucose, dextrose, lactose, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, malt syrup, molasses, and brown sugar. Keep in mind that healthy alternatives still act as sugar in your body and these can include maple syrup, raw sugar, agave nectar and stevia.

 

Where is sugar hidden? You may know that sugar is in foods such as ice cream, cakes, cookies and other sweet treats. But it’s also added to many packaged foods too. When grocery shopping and preparing meals, it’s important to read labels for any of the above-mentioned sugary ingredients. These are common foods with hidden added sugars:

  • Tomato sauce
  • Canned soup
  • Breads
  • Dried fruit
  • Granola
  • Yogurt
  • Cereal
  • Juice, smoothies
  • Condiments

 

How much sugar is safe to eat? Since we all have different levels of health, this is best discussed with your primary health care provider. However, a general guideline is 9 teaspoons per day for men, and 6 teaspoons per day for women.

 

How can I keep my sugar intake in check? First and foremost, discuss any health concerns with your doctor. Next, become comfortable reading nutrition labels on every food item you purchase—especially those impulse items you grab when you’re hungry. Finally, be cautious when ordering take out or dining at a restaurant. Ask how foods are prepared and what, if any, ingredients are added during preparation.

 

Take matters into your own hands and start swapping out your favorite sugary foods for a healthier option. You can start here by swapping:

  • Soda and juice for water or unsweetened seltzer
  • Flavored yogurt for plain yogurt with fresh fruit
  • Bottled salad dressings for homemade dressings
  • Ketchup for unsweetened ketchup
  • Bread and tortillas for lettuce

 

 

Sources: cdc.gov, dhhs.nh.gov

Living Well Workshops by Healthy Living for ME

Now Open for Registration! 

 

DFD Russell Medical Centers is excited to announce new workshops by Healthy Living for Me. These workshops each discuss one topic including Living Well for Better Health, Living with Chronic Pain and Living with Diabetes.

Healthy Living for Me is an online resource providing evidence-based health education, fitness instruction and self-care strategies with the aim of improving wellness and quality of life.

These workshops are free to the public however, registration is required. Attendance can be over the Zoom platform or by telephone. Each class is led by a team of three instructors from different organization partners including Bonny Eagle Adult Education and Spectrum Generations.

 

Interested in virtually attending one of these class series? Check out the details below:

 

Living Well for Better Health: 6-session series

WHEN: Tuesdays, September 15 – October 20, 2020
TIME: 1pm – 3pm
WHERE: Online via Zoom
INFO: Register here or by contacting Katherine Mills: kmills@healthylivingforme.org or (207) 440-2390.

 

Living Well with Chronic Pain: 6-session series

WHEN: Wednesdays, September 30 – November 4, 2020
TIME: TBD
WHERE: Online, via Zoom or by telephone
INFO: For details and course information: email info@healthylivingforme.org or call 1-800-620-6036.

 

Living Well with Diabetes: 6-session series

WHEN: Tuesdays, October 6 – November 10, 2020
TIME: 9am – 11am
WHERE: Online via Zoom
INFO: Register here or by contacting Katherine Mills at kmills@healthylivingforme.org or call (207) 440-2390.

Staying Healthy When Dealing With Stress

In times of high stress and uncertainty, it’s easy to let our routines and healthy habits fall to the wayside. But if we let anxiety and stress overwhelm us, our health could suffer. This is the opposite of what your body and mind need! Let’s talk about some easy ways to focus on nutrition and mental health during overwhelming times or a crisis.

 

Healthy Eating

It may be tempting to stock up and binge on non-perishables such as chips, cookies and crackers, but these are mostly void of nutritional value. A consistently nutritious diet (with a few treats here and there) is critical for maintaining bodyweight, avoiding illness, and minimizing stress. Here are some food choices to focus on:

  • Healthy fats: avocados, eggs, nuts for satiety and mood regulation
  • Lean proteins: help to balance and boost serotonin levels
  • Bananas: rich in B vitamins for nervous system function
  • Citrus fruits: shown to decrease stress; Vitamin C boosts immunity
  • Dark, leafy greens: regulate cortisol and blood pressure

If you’re spending more time at home with your family, now is a great time to try new foods and recipes. Coming together to create a meal is a perfect way to bond and stay connected.

 

Exercise

If your local gym, fitness center, or group class isn’t accessible, you don’t need to forfeit your physical activity efforts. When you keep with your exercise routine—even if the activity looks different—you’re helping your body and mind. If you don’t have access to your favorite instructors or equipment, try these at home:

  • Take daily walks around your house or neighborhood
  • Use trails for hiking and safe roads for running
  • Strength train using bodyweight or items around the house
  • Take advantage of streaming apps or social media for home workouts

Keeping your body moving lowers stress and risk of illnesses and maintains your bodyweight, all of which are essential to your health. Don’t forget that yard work and other household chores also get your body moving!

 

Mental Health

A healthy diet and exercise are essential, but your mental health is just as important especially in times of unease. If you’re having anxious thoughts and feelings, reacting to stress in a negative way, and are having trouble sleeping, then your mental health may need your attention.

Try some of the following when you’re stressed or anxious:

  • Step outside: fresh air and Vitamin D are good for boosting mood
  • Deep breathing: focused, mindful breathing eases anxiety and stress
  • Meditation: consistent practice can keep your mind calm and centered
  • Stretching: loosens muscles and brings awareness to any tension

There are many ways to address your mental health, some may work for you and some may not. This is okay! Find what works and adopt them into your routine.

Additionally, getting proper sleep is vital to your overall health. When we are asleep, our body is restoring muscles from exercise, digesting the meals we’ve enjoyed, and improving our memory and cognition.

Adapting to a new routine in a time of stress may take some time. Be consistent and patient with yourself. Keeping your body and mind healthy are the best things you can do in a time of uncertainty.

If stress or anxiety is impacting your day-to-day life, reach out to a medical professional right away.